Contract decision made despite council ‘errors’

Adur and Worthing voluntary service staff criticise decision which will see council break long-standing ties with the organisations in favour of employing the services of a Brighton company. Jaqui Ball, chair of Voluntary Action Worthing (front), joined by Staff, trustees and volunteers.  Pic Steve Robards   SR1601056
Adur and Worthing voluntary service staff criticise decision which will see council break long-standing ties with the organisations in favour of employing the services of a Brighton company. Jaqui Ball, chair of Voluntary Action Worthing (front), joined by Staff, trustees and volunteers. Pic Steve Robards SR1601056
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COUNCILLORS have called for a review of a decision which will see voluntary organisations with more than 50 years’ experience lose a key contract.

Adur and Worthing councils announced on Friday it was set to award its voluntary services contract to Brighton and Hove Community Works – rejecting a bid from Adur Voluntary Action and Voluntary Action Worthing.

The decision was made despite the councils admitting errors in the tender process - though it argued they did not affect the outcome.

Adur UKIP leader Paul Graysmark and UKIP councillors Geoff Patmore and Liz Hayward have requested the decision be called-in for scrutiny by elected members.

Mr Patmore said: “I know that our local voluntary organisations are extremely shocked and disappointed.

“UKIP has called the decision in to achieve in-depth scrutiny of this decision.”

The Adur and Worthing organisations have separately provided services for 30 and 22 years respectively, assisting small groups and charities. But the councils announced in November it was commissioning a new, single contract, to commence in April.

The organisations’ joint bid scored just 48 per cent, compared to the Community Works score of 96 per cent.

The organisations are jointly seeking legal advice after the councils admitted the procedural errors.

This included issues with the clarity of the interview process and failing to place the contract on a national database, as required by the councils’ guidelines.

In a report outlining the decision, director for communities John Mitchell said the errors had not affected the outcome, adding that re-running the tender would not be in the public interest.

Jaqui Ball, Voluntary Action Worthing chairman said: “We remain appalled that the council would effectively send a local organisation to the wall because it preferred to us an organisation outside the district and we are still extremely doubtful about the validity of the scrutiny mechanism.”

Adrian Barritt, chief officer for Adur Voluntary Action, welcomed the move to call the decision in but said it was ‘a shame’ it was not a cross-party effort.

The call-in deadline is Friday. Worthing cabinet member for health and wellbeing Val Turner said the call-in was not automatic and the legal team would assess the request. She added: “Nobody likes to see a long-established group lose out but this was a competitive procurement process. We do other procurement processes with equally well-established local charities who have to do this every three years.”

The contract will run for two years, plus an optional one-year extension, with Adur and Worthing budgeting around £230,000. Mrs Turner said this was the same as the previous contract and it was about getting ‘as much as we can’ for the money. She said additional funding contributed by West Sussex County Council was yet to be confirmed.

Community Works declined to comment.